Colorado Has 4 Of The Country’s Most Vibrant Art Communities

September 4, 2019
The Colorado Convention Center.The Colorado Convention Center.Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The Colorado Convention Center.

Boulder, Denver, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge are all nationwide leaders in Arts Vibrancy, according to a new report from SMU DataArts.

It’s the first time Boulder has made the list in the five years the index has been compiled. The other three cities have all made the list in the past, but weren’t included in 2018.

“It shows that our arts community is porous and the growth of the arts is a statewide issue,” said Matt Chasansky, arts and culture services manager for Boulder. “There’s a couple municipalities like ours that are sorta out in front, but everyone is benefiting from the activity.”

The report by the National Center for Arts and Research out of Southern Methodist University in Texas separated cities by size and looked at three factors: supply, demand and government support.

Denver, a large city, was no. 20 in the list of similar-sized cities. It ranked well for its “large and renowned museums and institutions,” according to the report. Those institutions fall under the reports supply factor, which is the number of arts providers in a community, such as the Denver Art Museum and the Five points Jazz Festival.

While Denver didn't make the list in 2018, it did in 2017. Fluctuations in the rankings can occur for several reasons, according to the report, including the opening or closing of a museum or performance space. Because the measures are calculated on a per capita basis, growth in the arts could be on a different trajectory than total population, which could then bump a city on or off the list. It’s not clear from the report why Denver wasn’t in the 2018 index.

The second component of the evaluation, demand, is gauged by the total nonprofit dollars in a community. In Steamboat Springs, there is strong financial support from the community that supports nonprofits like the Chief Theater, Elevation Dance, the Steamboat Art Museum and the Tread of Pioneers Museum, according to the report. Steamboat ranked 12th overall for arts dollars.

“It's an exciting time to be an artist or creator in Colorado and especially in Steamboat Springs,” said Kim Keith, executive director of Steamboat Creates, in an email. “There seems to be a synergy between the creators and other groups that are making a difference like Friends of the Yampa, a water conservation nonprofit, who recently engaged a muralist, Jill Bergman, to help spread the message about the Yampa River.”

The final piece of the evaluation is government funding, which is based on state and federal arts dollars as well as grants. The financial metrics were adjusted for cost of living, according to the report.

In Breckenridge, a “strong support for the arts” got the city a ranking in the top 13 percent of communities in the U.S. for government support. Breckenridge Creative Arts, or BreckCreate, a nonprofit arts and culture organization is almost completely funded by the city, according to the report.

It’s more important than ever to recognize and celebrate the role that arts and culture play in communities across the country, according to a press release from SMU DataArts.

“Arts and cultural organizations exist throughout the nation, serving communities both poor and affluent, rural and urban,” said Dr. Zannie Voss, director of SMU DataArts, in a press release. “Their widespread distribution testifies to the human need for creativity and artistic expression. They are also engines of community development and community cohesion.”